How can we accept a project we know will cause our country so much harm?by Jonathan Lis / January 30, 2020 / Leave a comment
And so the moment finally arrives. The climax of three and a half years is just hours away. In truth it is the climax of 47 years and one month of our EU membership. In some ways it is just another milestone amid centuries of unresolved arguing. This journey began long before we joined and will continue long after we leave.
The officially sanctioned theme on Friday is celebration. We can all agree something momentous is about to happen, but cannot agree on what any of it signifies or presages, still less how to mark the actual moment. A couple of weeks ago I provoked right-wing media outrage when, on a radio show, I made a throwaway, non-literal remark that Remainers would organise a larger counter-protest to any formal festivities. My intention was not to re-fight a battle the Remain side had lost, but to express the point that this was no national celebration, no coming together and certainly no moment of healing. How can we celebrate a moment so many millions continue to oppose? How can we unite around a movement which has so resolutely failed to compromise? How can we accept a project we know will cause our country so much harm?
My storm, at least, was limited. Hugh Grant caused a far greater stir when he declared that Britain was “finished.”
The story on Friday will be personal and collective. Millions of Britons who never cared about the EU one way or the other have now concretised their feelings about it into their identity. It is emotional for both Remainers and Leavers. I will be thinking about the first day I visited the European Parliament in 2011, a mild Eurosceptic who didn’t much think about the EU, didn’t much trust it, and who worried about the supposed homogenisation it engendered. I will reflect on the three years I spent working there, when I learnt how the EU actually works and how it drives forward an ethic of cooperation and compromise. And I will think of the progression since the referendum from despair to hope to defeat.
The national story is still being written. Decades from now, historians will question how the Daily Mail proclaimed “Europe, here we come!” when we joined and “Take a bow, Britain!”…